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When considering the immeasurable evil of slavery it s difficult to fully fathom the ramifications it had amongst so many individuals lives Not only were people s freedom and lives brutally curtailed, controlled and cut short, but their talent and potential was also squandered Esi Edugyan evocatively portrays the life of George Washington Black or Wash , a character with the aptitude to be a great artist and scientist were he not born into slavery on a Barbados plantation in 1818 But she grants him the potential to partially foster his talents when he comes under the apprenticeship of an eccentric scientist who is the brother of the plantation owner overseer What follows is a fantastically imaginative, heartrending and compulsively readable tale of his journey and growth into early adulthood It s a richly immersive story that also powerfully shows the perspective of slaves who feel We had been estranged from the potential of our own bodies, from the revelation of everything our bodies and minds could accomplish This psychological state is complexly rendered as are the way characters surrounding Wash fail to fully empathize with him and understand the ramifications of slavery Washington Black is an astounding novel.Read my full review of Washington Black by Esi Edugyan on LonesomeReader Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018My seventh book from the longlist is another choice that may have surprised people, and I found it a very enjoyable read It gives the adventure story a modern twist by making its eponymous hero a slave born on a plantation in Barbados in the early 19th century The Faith Plantation s owner has died, leaving it in the hands of the sadistic and barbarous Erasmus Wilde, almost a caricature villain Brought into the house as a waiter, Wash catches the eye of the owner s brother Titch Christopher , who takes him on as an assistant to help him realise his innovative balloon known as the Cloud Cutter, and he soon attracts attention for his skilful drawing.The brothers are at odds, and Wash becomes a pawn in their battle, which puts him in mortal danger, but Titch proposes their escape on the balloon Their ensuing adventures are implausible, but Edugyan s storytelling skills are such that you want to go along with her wilder flights of fancy In the second half of the book Wash is largely responsible for the design of a revolutionary aquarium, and this part of the story has a grain of truth behind it The world of eccentric 19th century gentleman scientists is brilliantly caricatured, and the whole thing is great fun to read.Yes, it is a shaggy dog story, but a well written and exuberant one. Audiobook narrated by Dion Graham great raspy voice The language words sentences dialogue are beautiful, intense, suspenseful, with ranges of temperatures smells creatures smiles fierceness wildness anxiousness desire softness gentleness electrifying moments harrowing scenes present stillness quietness saucy entertaining touching astonishing unsettling genuinely felt the fear, the feelings of bitterness, the will for violence kill or be killed the struggle of desolation the sadness of running from being a black boy the absurdity that awareness is from the lowest of days to moments of flashes the breathlessness of color from seeing a grand sea of bliss glowing radiant light music in the sea tree frogs bones gratefulness of renew from a boy of slavery to sparkles of celebrations overwhelmed by what life might beI was drawn in completely to the storytelling with the WONDERFUL NARRATOR, Dion Graham and I was sooo in aw enjoying the gorgeous prose This novel historical fiction being part of it felt to me a little like a fantasy adult fairy tale I was reminded of the classic Around the World In Eighty Days Not the same of course but I hadn t thought about the story in years until this novelstep into the world of brutal troubles and tranquil nirvana with an Audiobook DAZZLING NARRATOR This is the first time I have experienced the writing from Esi Edugyan She s incredibly skillful I ENJOYED HER IMAGINATION PROSE a lot Despite a cover that is currently winking at me with come hither gold foiled clouds, this book was one mammoth slog from beginning to end The most generous thing I can find to say is that it fairly zips along but to what purpose I am unsure.Much focus has been placed on why a crime novel like Snap is on the Man Booker longlist but at the moment I am looking askance at this middling historical fiction adventure tale I am not adverse to historical fiction, Hilary Mantel being the master in my eyes, nor do I distain the odd adventure storyThe North Waterpolar bears Eskimos Murder however this book is one damp squib of disappointment by comparison It starts on a sugar plantation in Barbados in 1830 and so would seem to be headed in the direction of a slave narrative but this ain t no Homegoing orThe Underground Railroad Many of the characters, had potential but ultimately lacked depth and often drifted inexplicably away, Big Kit, Titch Bad guys were easy to spot they were marked out early by their ghostly white, sickly countenances, flinty and or watery eyes and most damming of all, their thin pale lips often curled into a snarl They may as well just had a sign pinned on them evil.The novel slowly morphs into a sort of Victorian era adventure novel complete with a gentleman scientist the enigmatic, Titch, roaming about tasting grass and dirt, putting electric eels in barrels and dabbling unwisely with hot air balloons I had been looking forward to this much vaunted balloon which graces my cover in all it s Steampunk glory but it is soon abandoned in a ridiculous scene of misadventure I am unsure how a book that seems to hint at a rollicking tale is so devoid of any truly thrilling moments Even the attempt at the shadowy slave catcher plot line petered out without raising a pulse Usually, I can find something redeeming to say about a 400 page novel, lets see, there were some picturesque descriptions of nudibranches and colourful ink squirting Octopodes It was nice that the main character, an ex slave known as Washington Black, was an undiscovered scientific genius Largely self taught he excelled as a botanical illustrator, diver, marine biologist, and inventor of the worlds first aquarium a truly remarkable fellow Obviously, this book managed to set off several hot buttons for things that frustrate me in books which is not just limited to underutilised balloons However, I have in all likelihood been mean spirited here because this book made the Man Booker longlist which is unconscionable to me in a year when there is a plethora of brilliantly written and challenging fiction. A man who has belonged to another learns very early to observe a master s eyes what I saw in this man s terrified me Erasmus Wilde was the new master of Faith Plantation, Barbados The year was 1830 George Washington Black Wash was a ten year old field slave who helped clear the cane Wash had no family but Big Kit, a field slave as well, nurtured him Reading Wash s palm, she declared, you will have a great big life, child Erasmus Wilde, the eldest son of an adventurer, was left in charge of four plantations, living at and running Faith Plantation, the most profitable one He resented his younger brother Christopher nicknamed Titch , a scientist and adventurer Titch could pursue anything of his choosing and what he wanted was to train Wash as his man servant He needed someone small to assist with his scientific endeavors His Cloud Cutter was a hot air balloon Titch determined that an airborne balloon could support both his weight and that of a small boy Surprisingly, Wash was discovered to be a budding artist who learned to document Titch s data and measurements and illustrate what he saw from several different vantage points This uneducated field slave slowly tasted life outside the confines of the plantation Could he live a meaningful existence and be acknowledged for his present and future accomplishments It would be challenging since the vengeful Erasmus was offering a reward of 1,000 pounds for the capture of Wash Will he ever be his own man Washington Black by Esi Edugyan was an excellent historical adventure novel that allowed the reader to witness Wash s unsettling journey Leaving the sugar cane fields, he learned different societal expectations while experiencing shame and anger associated with rejection by the field slaves Could his artistic renderings under the tutelage of Titch be acknowledged as his own Does Wash have a voice Washington Black by Esi Edugyan is a character study of Wash and a commentary on slavery and race in the 1800 s I highly recommend this 2018 Man Booker Long Listed Nominee.Thank you First to Read for a digital copy in exchange for my honest review. I m SHOCKED this is on the Man Booker ShortlistThe book has an incredibly strong opening the pacing and character development are pitch perfect, a real page turner However, about 150 pages in, the plot dissolves and morphs into one of those clunky YA narratives this happens, then this happens, then this happens We re told, not shown, and this endless chain of events leads NO WHERE I m pissed Winner of the Giller Prize 2018The Booker judges seem to be eager to add quite some material that is highly accessible and easily readable this year, but while the inclusion of Snap seemed outrageous to me, this is a defendable choice Edugyan writes about slavery, racism, and identity, but in the form of an adventure novel, told chronologically and in the first person While this makes for a rather conservative narrative strategy, the author clearly knows how to compose an engaging and compelling story and there is depth, too Our protagonist is George Washington Black who at the beginning of the story is an 11 year old slave on a sugar plantation in Barbados When the new owner s brother arrives and needs help for his science project, Wash, as people call him, gets the chance to get away from the vicious and sadistic cruelty the slaves on the plantation have to endure Christopher Wilde, or Titch , as the young scientist is called, borrows Wash from his brother so that he might help him work on an airship he designed by that, Wash first gets the chance to learn about science and nature, which, along with drawing, will turn out to be his passion When Wash, without his own doing, gets into trouble that might cost him his life, Wash and Titch flee Barbados with their cloud cutter From there on, Wash roams the world, first seeking safety as he is a runaway slave, later, when slavery is abolished, still fearing bounty hunters and looking for Titch I will not spoil how they got separated, but I will say that Wash travels to the US, the Arctic, Canada, London, Amsterdam, and Marocco We learn about Titch s twisted family and witness how Wash tries to build a life, pursuing his interests in science and art All of this is intriguing as an adventure novel, but Edugyan also discusses the hardship Wash has to endure, because even when slavery was abolished, racism of course persisted Wash struggles with his identity, constantly forced to look into the gap between his own potential and what society sees in him The writing is particularly strong when Edugyan writes about the psychology of her characters, what drives them and how they suffer from their flaws and past injuries, mental and phsyical For instance, the question arises why Titch decided to help Wash Is he, the white upper class scientist and abolitionist who finances his endeavours with money earned by the plantation, a good person, or does he just pursue self serving goals Sometimes it seems like Titch does not know himself.Sure, the novel partly comes close to a fairy tale and the narrative skeleton that carries Wash s travels always shines through much of what happens is highly unlikely, or as the text itself puts itYou are like an interruption in a novel, Wash The agent that sets things off courseBut realism is not the point here, Edugyan talks about history and human nature in the form of an allegory, and there are many smart ideas and strong images This is an enjoyable, intelligent read that leaves room for interpretation and discussion. This is the Man Booker title that I was the most trepidatious about picking up this year, not because I doubted its quality, but just because there is nothing about a nineteenth century Caribbean and North American set historical fiction adventure tale that appeals to me So with that said, I guess I did enjoy this than I expected to just not enough to really understand its inclusion on the Booker shortlist over structurally innovative and intellectually stimulating titles.This book s greatest asset ironically ended up being a detriment for me, and that was the fact that it s incredibly well written The thing that immediately struck me about this book was how incongruously poised its first person narration is Though the character Washington does show a natural intelligence throughout the story, one does have to question where an uneducated boy born into slavery picked up vocabulary words like unconscionable, inviolate, incandescence, leadenly, and disconsolate these are only a portion of the ones I highlighted which jumped out at me, and I wasn t even including dialogue from other characters So while I would describe the prose as smart and pleasurable to read, and while I d seek out books by Edugyan in the future for this factor alone, I don t think it suited this particular book.But my bigger problem with Washington Black is the way that the plot seemed to drive the characters throughout the narrative, and not the other way around To describe this premise and execution as contrived is an understatement As I was reading, I felt like I could constantly see Edugyan s hand manipulating these characters into the situations that they found themselves in, and this never ended up feeling like anything other than outlandish fiction I have no problem with coincidences and fate being used by an author deliberately and thematically see The Heart s Invisible Furies , but it s a fine line to walk, and if this is what Edugyan was attempting, I m afraid her efforts ended up seeming to me like plot devices than divine intervention.It s a pacey and readable book from beginning to end especially the end I loved the last few chapters quite a lot , but the narrative structure of character zips along from place to place, encountering quirky characters who quickly come and go will never be my favorite formula, and though there s occasionally incisive commentary on the relationship between white abolitionists and freed slaves in the nineteenth century, none of it is really groundbreaking enough that I feel terribly enriched for having read this I could have forgiven it a lot for being an entertaining story through and through, but despite the fact that I breezed through it in two days, it was a thoroughly lukewarm reading experience that I doubt will stay with me in any kind of significant way. 4.5 stars, rounded up How was it possible, thought I, that we lived in such nightmare and all the while a world of men continued just over the horizon, men such as these, in ships moving in any direction the wind might lead them George Washington Wash Black is an 11 year old slave growing up on a sugar plantation in Barbados in 1830 He has felt the cruelty of his master and his overseers, and seen the violence with which other slaves are treated But when the master dies, there is little time to rejoice, as the new master appears to be equally, if not , twisted and sadistic.Wash is surprised and frightened when he is pulled from the fields to become the manservant to the master s eccentric brother Christopher Wilde, or Titch, as Wash calls him, is a man of science, a man desperate to study the natural world around him and make brilliant discoveries Titch treats Wash as his research assistant, and under Titch s tutelage, Wash s talent for nature drawing begins to flourish.Titch s greatest dream is to soar through the skies in the Cloud Cutter, a balloon like contraption he has designed No one, Wash included, believes it will ever be able to leave the ground or travel far, yet Titch is determined to make sure it is ready for the right conditions And when a man dies, and Wash is the leading suspect, Titch and Wash know they must disappear far from Barbados and they hope the Cloud Cutter will help them get on their way.The two make their way across the Atlantic, traveling up the east coast of the U.S., up into Canada and eventually, to a remote outpost in the Arctic All the while they live in fear that the bounty hunter searching for Wash will find them, but they fail to understand that black men are treated the same way no matter where they are It had happened so gradually, but these months with Titch had schooled me to believe I could leave all misery behind, I could cast off all violence, outrun a vicious death I had even begun thinking I d been born for a higher purpose, to draw the earth s bounty, and to invent I had imagined my existence a true and rightful part of the natural order How wrong headed it had all been I was a black boy, only I had no future before me, and little grace or mercy behind me I was nothing, I would die nothing, hunted hastily down and slaughtered When Titch and Wash are separated, Wash realizes for the first time that he is the only person he can count on to save himself and change his life s circumstances His journey takes him through Canada, to England, Amsterdam, and the windswept deserts of Morocco Amazingly, he learns the lessons it takes men their entire lives to learn if that , lessons about betrayal, love, identity, independence, and self worth Washington Black is a tremendously thought provoking look at a boy who becomes a man as most of the world looks at him as less than that Wash knows he is than people believe he is, yet proving that to them and himself causes emotional pain, and puts him at great risk He is a tremendously fascinating character, one it will be very hard to forget.Esi Edugyan is a magnificent storyteller, and in addition to the suspenseful, emotional, powerful parts of her story, she does a fantastic job with imagery as well, as her characters travel across the world This book is a meditation on what freedom truly is, and how we are just as responsible for freeing ourselves as those whom have kept us captive It is a story that will make you think, it will make you angry at times, and in the end, it will make you feel.I ve never read anything of Edugyan s before, but I was tremendously impressed with her talent This isn t necessarily a fast paced book although it never felt slow I just immersed myself in Wash s incredible journey See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com. `PDF ↵ Washington Black ⇝ Washington Black Is An Eleven Year Old Field Slave Who Knows No Other Life Than The Barbados Sugar Plantation Where He Was Born When His Master S Eccentric Brother Chooses Him To Be His Manservant, Wash Is Terrified Of The Cruelties He Is Certain Await Him But Christopher Wilde, Or Titch, Is A Naturalist, Explorer, Scientist, Inventor, And Abolitionist He Initiates Wash Into A World Where A Flying Machine Can Carry A Man Across The Sky Where Two People, Separated By An Impossible Divide, Might Begin To See Each Other As Human And Where A Boy Born In Chains Can Embrace A Life Of Dignity And Meaning But When A Man Is Killed And A Bounty Is Placed On Wash S Head, Titch Abandons Everything To Save Him What Follows Is Their Flight Along The Eastern Coast Of America, And, Finally, To A Remote Outpost In The Arctic, Where Wash, Left On His Own, Must Invent Another New Life, One Which Will Propel Him Further Across The Globe From The Sultry Cane Fields Of The Caribbean To The Frozen Far North, Washington Black Tells A Story Of Friendship And Betrayal, Love And Redemption, Of A World Destroyed And Made Whole Again And Asks The Question, What Is True Freedom